I would like to make the case for living a passion-less life. Before you reel in horror and send me to an Oprah bootcamp, hear me out.
I listened to a story on NPR yesterday morning about graduation speeches that all say a variation of the same thing: find your passion/live your passion. Then they focused on one very bright, well educated young man who felt the odd-person out because he did not know what his passion is and he thought most of his peers did. He went about meeting with economists to solicit their help in finding direction post graduation.
I thought many things throughout the story. First and foremost, he is the norm not the outlier. I bet most people struggle to name their passion or claim their calling. Not so long ago (maybe less than 50 years ago), people did not have such lofty expectations to live a passion-filled life. In our affluence we now demand that not only should we be able to earn more than a living wage, but only at something we are enthusiastic about. Given how much time we trade work for income, I am not dismissing this aspiration out of hand.
What, though, if you are like this young man? He has many interests. His curiosity engages him in the world without providing him one overriding passion that he can point to… and I can relate. I spent most of my life thinking that if only I found my particular passion path I would be transformed.
This expectation is fueled by the people we know who appear to have a real passion for their work or a calling to a vocation. I remember hearing Astronaut Stephen Robinson interviewed about his career and he is one of those people who knew from a young age that he wanted to fly and seemingly single-mindedly pursued his passion until it took him to space and beyond. My pastor Jim Healton is called to ministry and UK Sarah too, albeit later in life. Sometimes we observe someone’s passion for their work and we might not acknowledge it as such at the time. Tedd Kraft was my dentist when I lived in Monterey and I never asked if he always wanted to be a dentist or if it was a strategy to avoid the infantry in Vietnam that turned into his calling. Nonetheless, he pursued dentistry with passion. So much so that even now my dentist will remark on Tedd’s work on my molars and note the excellence of his crowns.
I am glad those people received the gift of a calling and pursued it. What if no such calling is evident? Then what? Then do something, anything (legal and moral) with gusto. Invest in your relationships (that could be your passion). Over time, through trial and error, you may uncover your calling or your passion. At least you will live an interesting and fulfilling life. I look back over my life and I have many diverse experiences and many enthusiasms and rarely a dull moment in spite of never discovering my calling. I would tell graduates, “You can too.”